U.S. Threatens Korea
The Bush administration is bringing the Korean peninsula to the brink of war. U.S. threats against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the DPRK, or North Korea) and Washington’s withdrawal from the 1994 nuclear accords have led to a dramatic escalation of tensions. A growing tide of demonstrations against the presence of U.S. troops has rocked South Korea.
By cutting of the shipments of oil to the DPRK, the Bush administration effectively withdrew from the ‘Agreed Framework’ – an understanding between the U.S and North Korea that Korea would shut down its Yongbyon nuclear power plant in return for a steady supply of fuel oil and the construction of light water nuclear reactors by a U.S.– led consortium.
The decision to supply oil was not a humanitarian gesture. The Clinton administration was concerned that plutonium, a by-product created by the energy producing Yongbyon plant, could be used to produce nuclear weapons. The DPRK suffers from an energy shortage and was under no legal obligation to close the facilities. North Korea agreed to shut down the plant only if fuel oil was supplied to meet some of the country’s energy needs and if replacement reactors were built.
Officials of the former Clinton administration have stated that they planned to bomb the DPRK if an agreement could not reached on the nuclear issue. Statements from the DPRK leave little doubt that it was prepared to defend itself and that a U.S. attack would have resulted in a wider war on the Korean peninsula.
Foot dragging by the U.S. has meant that no significant progress was made in the construction of the replacement light water nuclear power plants. Bush’s branding of the DPRK a part of the ‘axis of evil’ has been widely interpreted by Koreans – North and South – as a threat to take military action against the North. Finally, by ignoring the obligation to provide fuel oil, the Bush administration left the Agreed Framework in tatters.
North Korea has responded by preparing to reopen the Yongbyon facility for the purpose of producing electricity, and telling monitors from the International Atomic Energy Commission to leave. The breakdown of the Agreed Framework means that the Commission in not needed to implement the implementation of the Framework.
‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’
The DPRK says that it reserves the right to develop whatever weapons it needs to defend itself. This is not surprising, given the numerous threats to its independence over the last 100 years.
Before World War II, Korea was a colony of Japan. After World War II, Korea was partitioned along the 38th parallel. The anti-Japanese partisan leader Kim Il Sung assumed the presidency of the North – the socialist DPRK – while the U.S. propped up Japanese collaborators in the South.
In 1950, the U.S. started a war with the North that resulted in the deaths of 2 million Koreans and 53,000 American soldiers. American air raids devastated the North Korean capital of Pyongyang – not one building over a single story was left standing. In the course of the war, the U.S. gained the dubious distinction of being one of the handful of countries that has ever used biological weapons, by utilizing germ warfare against the DPRK. The war ended with an armistice in 1953.
Following the armistice, U.S. and South Korean authorities implemented a policy of military provocations along the Demilitarized Zone, which divides the North and South, as well as numerous violations of the DPRK sea and airspace. On a near yearly basis, the U.S. organizes ‘military exercises’ involving tens of thousands of troops, armored vehicles and fighter aircraft that race towards the Demilitarized Zone as if a U.S. invasion of the DPRK was underway.
The U.S. has never renounced the first use of nuclear weapons against the DPRK, and American military strategy for the Korean peninsula has a nuclear dimension. Specifically, if a major war broke out, it is likely that American and South Korean forces would be handed a string of defeats. For this reason, Washington’s military strategy has long included a nuclear option.
The DPRK has proposed a non-aggression treaty with the United States, where all parties would renounce the use of force. The Bush administration says it will not discuss the proposal.
Add on threats like those of Defense Secretary Rumsfield, who states that the U.S. can wage simultaneous wars against Iraq and North Korea, and it’s clear why the DPRK would be unwilling to renounce it’s right to nuclear weapons. The U.S. has used nuclear weapons. It has employed biological weapons in Korea. The DPRK will not forgo its right to develop weapon systems that help deter blackmail or military intervention.
As we go to press, there are reports that the DPRK is considering exercising its right to withdraw from the Non-proliferation Treaty
Upsurge in the South
U.S. troops in South Korea serve as an army of occupation. They have put down uprisings in the South. Their involvement in numerous incidents of rape, murder and theft has given rise to a wave of popular anger against the U.S. presence. American troops who commit crimes are not tried by Korean courts.
The recent murder of two Korean schoolgirls by U.S. G.I.’s brought hundreds of thousands of South Koreans into the streets to demand justice. The schoolgirls were run down with an armored vehicle.
The defeat of the openly pro-U.S. candidate in South Korea’s recent elections, massive demonstrations against the presence of U.S. troops and protests against a U.S. war on the North limit the Pentagon’s options and have thrown U.S. foreign policy makers for a loop.
In December, American troops boarded a Korean freighter. They rounded up the crew at gunpoint, damaged the vessel and proceeded to hold up DPRK exports of military hardware bound for the government of Yemen. Imagine the shoe on the other foot. The U.S. is the world’s leading exporter. What would happen to any country that boarded U.S. ships in international waters and behaved this way?
Bush’s new policy towards the DPRK is called ‘tailored containment.’ While it is unclear what all its component parts will be, its aim is to apply pressure, to stifle the DPRK. Since socialist North Korea came into being, each successive American administration has worked for its elimination.
As the DPRK has strong support from the Korean people, and a strong military as well, an intense debate is going on in the Bush administration about how to proceed against North Korea. Further complicating the issue are U.S. war moves against Iraq and the problems that would be faced by the Pentagon in fighting two major wars at once.
It is vital that progressive and anti-war forces say ‘no’ to war moves against the DPRK. U.S. troops need to come home from Korea now!